Richard Miller's Latest Book Reviewed
in Opera News; Journal of Singing

Professor of Singing Richard Miller's Training Soprano Voices was reviewed in the January issues of Opera News and the January/February Journal of Singing, a National Association of Teachers of Singing publication. The book is his most recent contribution to the field of vocal pedagogy and is a continuation of his systematic overview of teaching different voice types.

Richard Dale Sjoerdsma said in the Journal of Singing: "There are writers on vocal pedagogy, then there are genuine vocal pedagogues. Richard Miller is a peerless example of the latter . . . . He embodies a rare combination of voice science and pedagogy, in which the former is the servant of the latter."

Teachers and students began to ask Miller for a book for sopranos after his last book, Training Tenor Voices, was published in 1993. "It makes sense. An overwhelming majority of singers are female, and most teachers are themselves sopranos," explains Miller. "However, as not all sopranos are the same, a teacher needs to know how to approach a student whose voice is different."

To that end, he explains, the book "identifies subdivisions within the general designation of ‘soprano' and offers suggestions and practical vocalises appropriate for the several types."

In January Miller conducted courses in systematic vocal technique, with master classes for teachers and singers, in Sydney – it was his fifth annual visit in association with Australia Auditions Unlimited. Miller also directed the third Vocal Arts Center Symposium in Oberlin in February.

Miller was adjudicator for the Metropolitan Opera National Gulf Coast Region in New Orleans and gave master classes for University of New Orleans graduate students and competitors in the Opera Guild contest. He also lectured and gave master classes for the National Association of Teachers of Singing in October at the University of Nebraska School of Music.

In response to questions generated during the courses and master classes he has taught around the world, Miller has recently completed Solutions for Singers.«

Every time I get a new CD or a reissue featuring Pucho and the Latin Soul Brothers, I think of pianist Neal Creque. Before 1991, the name of that group was unfamiliar to me. Neal Creque changed that.

I first heard Neal play at Nighttown, a popular Cleveland restaurant, in 1990. Earlier, I had interviewed for a job as jazz host and executive producer at WCPN-FM, Cleveland Public Radio. Then, during dinner, one of my interviewers pointed out that Neal was a "great jazz pianist" and he lived in Cleveland.

I listened. There were musical fireworks. I saw an elegantly attired, bald-headed gentleman who obviously loved what he was doing at the keyboard. This man was playing as much for himself as for anyone in the restaurant, challenging himself and making such music, you had to listen to him. I recall going up and thanking him before leaving.

I took the job and moved from Binghamton, New York. I wanted to hear that pianist again! I knew he was no ordinary musician. He was a consummate practitioner of his art in all its forms.

Through my friend, vocalist Ki Aallen, I came to know Neal, his wife, Nina, and his music. Wherever and whenever Ki and Neal performed, I'd go to their gigs. These performances are among some of my favorite memories of Cleveland's jazz scene. Neal always treated his audience, no matter how large or small, to the same outstanding musicianship.

As for Pucho and the Latin Soul Brothers: in 1991, I nominated Neal for an Arts Midwest Jazz Masters award. Besides learning about his collaborations with guitarist Grant Green, percussionist Mongo Santamaria, and one of the leading – and most demanding – of jazz vocalists, Carmen McRae, I learned of his work as pianist, composer, and arranger with Pucho's funky boogaloo-salsa-soul band. (In the liner notes for their 2000 release Cold Shoulder, jazz columnist Paul de Barros credits Neal as having co-written, with the late Jackie Soul, "a lot of the best stuff" on the album.)

Besides being an incomparable composer and pianist, Neal was an inspiring teacher who worked closely with all his students, whether at Oberlin, privately, or in master classes.

"Neal wrote for all the student jazz ensembles," says bassist Peter Dominguez, who came to Oberlin specifically to work with Creque. "He wrote to each student's strength. He was a master teacher. In the best situation you have a person who is a composer, an arranger, and a player. Neal set the standard for all of us. He could get all the colors out of his instrument." – Evelynn Hawkins

Evelynn Hawkins, music director and afternoon jazz host at WDUQ 90.5 FM in Pittsburgh, has been known as "Dr. D.J." ever since Sir Andre Previn wrote his eponymous jazz tune in her honor. Neal Creque, Wendell Logan, and several Oberlin students were guests on her program during her days at Cleveland's WCPN 90.3 FM. She traveled from Pittsburgh to speak at Creque's memorial service.

A memorial service was held in December in Finney Chapel for Neal Creque, teacher of jazz piano at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music since 1988, who died December 1, 2000, following a long battle with cancer. He was 60 years old. Pictured (l to r): Vocalist Ki Aallen, drummer Bill Ransom, and Oberlin faculty members Peter Dominguez and Robert Ferrazza, at the memorial.
For more about Neal Creque and his recordings, visit the jazz section of the All Music Guide web site.

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